Tuesday, April 7, 2015


The sentence is not the idea.
The sentence is not the basic building block of fiction.
A work of fiction is not a series of sentences.
Fiction does not work--not at all--at "the sentence level."
Language is an imperfect vessel, a poorly-ground lens, a leaking tin pot, and words are not what they signify. They are only words. Life cannot be contained in language.
Fiction does not grow out of sentences.
The idea is a vision.
The real vision is always larger than a real writer. A false writer is always bigger than his vision.
The real vision is always larger than language, than sentences, than words.
Sometimes the real vision is an imperfect vessel, a poorly-ground lens, a leaking tin pot.
Some of these claims may be true; they feel true. They feel true today.
These claims might make me look old-fashioned and stodgy. Bailey is not part of the Modern American Cult of the Sentence. No, he is not. Art concerned with language might well be fiction, might well be good art, but art about language that is concerned with form and unconcerned with ideas about humanity is not fiction. It's a type of fiction, you may claim, a new type of fiction, but you are mistaken. It is something else. Or, it may be a type of fiction (a new type of fiction) but it is not important. As fiction.
The sentences do not contain the potential energy of the piece. Or if they do, it's not much of a piece, your leaky tin pot. The potential energy of the piece is in the writer, in the writer's ideas, the writer's vision of humanity. That has nothing to do with any sentence except the death sentence under which we all labor. I end with a lousy pun, a bad joke.


  1. The eighth is my favorite. Poor false writer. Though he probably has his reward.

    I like sentences. I like pushing words around. But I still agree.

  2. I'm just messing around here. I love the possibilities within language, with the music of syllables, etc. But I don't care about fiction that doesn't engage with certain questions about humanity, I guess. I admit to those limits as a reader.

    1. And I forgot to ask how your eye is doing. Better, I hope!

    2. Getting used to the new way the world looks, anyway.

    3. And why not have all the elements of narrative? Modernism already fooled with leaving things out. We don't have to...